2 inmate deaths in Racine, families want answers

Two men died in custody at the Racine County Jail just days apart, sparking protests and rallies, including one Sunday afternoon, June 6. 

Family members of Malcolm James and Ronquale Ditello-Scott Jr. said they are asking for thorough and transparent investigations after those men, who were both taken into custody on May 29, did not live to see their own days in court. 

"How does this happen at the same time, at the same place?" one man asked the crowd that gathered Sunday. 

On the steps of the Racine County Courthouse, the loss of loved ones brought two families together.

"I am Malcolm James’ mother, and his life mattered to me," said Sherry James. 

"I’m so terrified, y’all," said one woman who identified herself as Ditello-Scott's cousin. "All I need is my cousin here."

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Around 3 a.m. on May 29, 22-year-old Ditello-Scott Jr. was arrested for OWI after failing a field sobriety test. According to authorities, he was placed in a holding cell and checked on by jail nursing staff around 7 a.m. Within an hour, staff conducted another check. Scott wasn't breathing, according to the Racine County Sheriff's Office, and was pronounced dead.

The same day, deputies arrested 27-year-old Malcolm James for arson and 14 counts of recklessly endangering safety. Placed on suicide watch in a high-visibility cell, authorities say James tried several times to harm himself. After being treated in a hospital, he was taken back to jail. Three days later, on June 1, authorities said he once again began "smashing his head into a concrete wall." While being evaluated by staff, James experienced "a medical event" which led him to be unresponsive. He, too, was pronounced dead.

Ronquale Ditello-Scott Jr., Malcolm James

Ronquale Ditello-Scott Jr., Malcolm James

"We’re gravely disturbed and concerned about the deaths of these two men of color in the Racine Sheriff County Jail and we want answers," said Tavis Grant, bishop and national field director with the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

With two families grieving, community members are also demanding answers.

"Our heart breaks for them knowing this could be one of our children, one of our family members, and that’s hurtful," said Kelly Scroggins-Powell, co-founder and executive director of Racine Women for Racial Justice. "So we mourn for them. We mourn with them."

In both cases, the Kenosha County Sheriff's Department will be acting as the outside agency, conducting independent reviews of each man's death.

The Racine County Sheriff's Office, on Friday, June 4, released a statement asking for patience as autopsies are completed, evidence is documented, video surveillance is reviewed, and witnesses are interviewed.